Beating the odds

Vote Yes for Yakima KidsIt’s a tough economic climate—especially to achieve the supermajority vote needed to pass a school bond. And yet, that’s exactly what happened last week thanks to the tenacity and hard work of students, schools, and volunteers in Yakima.

For the first time in nearly 20 years, voters in the Yakima School District approved a $114 million school bond to build a new high school and modernize seven other schools.

The critical factor for this success story was the kids!

Two student coordinators from each high school worked together to organize their peers and community members to build support for the school bond. One of the culminating events was the BondFest rally, where students from each school marched from their campus to the park to hear speakers and performances. More than 1,000 students and community supporters attended the event.

In an election with nearly 12,000 votes cast, students and volunteers delivered a powerful message that reached more than 10,000 voters via door-to-door knocking, phone calls, and rallies.

These students truly gave their heart and soul. Their work will mean future high school classes will learn and walk the halls of modern and safer buildings.

Special thanks should go to Central Washington Progress and The Washington Bus for providing technical help and know-how around elections and organizing.

If you’re starting up a levy and/or bond campaign in November or next year—you’re not alone! Yakima is a success story that can work in any community in the state.

At LEV, I’m one of two field organizers who will travel anywhere in Washington State to help you setup and develop a solid plan to win a school levy or bond. We can also put you in touch with other resources that can provide voter analysis and assistance with K-12 finance and organizing.

Contact me us about getting involved in or running a levy or bond campaign at info@educationvoters.org.

Governor signs landmark education reform bill

Gov. Chris Gregoire signed a landmark education reform bill, Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2261, today in Olympia.

A broad-based coalition of parents, business leaders, community members and education stakeholders, which includes the League of Education Voters, issued the following news release after the bill signing.

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News Release: May 19, 2009

Governor signs landmark education reform bill

Parents, school advocates applaud beginning of movement to redefine and fully fund “basic education”

OLYMPIA – More than 100 parents and education advocates joined Gov. Chris Gregoire as she signed a landmark education reform bill, Engrossed Substitute House Bill 2261, today in Olympia.

“Today is a historic day for Washington’s children in the midst of challenging times,” said Laura Bay, president of the Washington State PTA.  “Parents and school advocates are deeply concerned about the impact of state budget cuts to schools.  We’re grateful, however, that lawmakers took bold action to protect education funding from devastating cuts in the future by expanding ‘basic education’ to include the tools our children need to succeed in life.”

“The signing of this education reform bill is important to our economy,” said Terry Byington, executive director of TechAmerica Washington.  “The future of our state and nation depends on every child receiving a high-quality education that prepares them for the jobs of today and tomorrow.”

“The signing of the education reform bill is, in large part, a testament to the hard work of parent and citizen advocates who worked to achieve positive changes for children and public schools,” said Jen Boutell, parent and Tacoma Stand for Children leader.

At the last minute, the governor vetoed the section on early learning.

“We’re deeply disappointed that the governor chose to veto the section that would have provided early learning for at-risk children,” said Chris Korsmo, executive director of the League of Education Voters.  “We take the governor at her word that she’ll prioritize early learning next session.  This is a top priority of ours and the children of our state.”

A broad-based coalition of parents, business leaders, community members and education stakeholders worked closely with legislators for months to pass ESHB 2261.  The reforms, which begin in 2011 and will be fully implemented by 2018, will:

  • Expand the school day so high school students can take more math, science and world language courses to graduate with 24 credits;
  • Redefine basic education to include all-day kindergarten, highly capable education, transportation and other academic programs and support services students need to succeed in school;
  • Make school funding more transparent for school leaders, lawmakers and parents through the use of a “prototypical schools” model; and
  • Direct the State Board of Education to create an accountability system and intervention measures targeted at challenged schools and districts.

“Our state is now committed to reforms that will prepare every child for college, work and life,” said Cheryl Jones of the Black Education Strategy Roundtable.  “But, the work has just begun.  It’s up to all of us—parents, educators and students—to work closely with our lawmakers to implement these reforms.  Our education system depends on it, and all of our children deserve nothing less.”

An historic victory for children and schools

This is an historic day for one million public school kids in our state. The state Legislature passed the education reform bill, ESHB 2261. For the first time in 30 years, we’ve re-defined basic education to include the tools our educators need to prepare our kids for college, work and life.

The passage of ESHB 2261 commits the state to fully implementing and funding early learning for at-risk kids, all-day kindergarten, stronger graduation requirements, a longer school day, and other reforms to improve outcomes for children by 2018. It’s up to all of us-parents, educators, and students-to work together to hold our lawmakers accountable to fulfilling that commitment.

Congratulations! Applaud yourselves for achieving an historic milestone for children and schools. Thank you for your passion and persistence. It’s clear that your personal phone calls, messages and visits made a tremendous difference. Now we need to thank our lawmakers.

Please send a thank you note to the legislators who made this possible.

  • View the roll call vote on ESHB 2261.
  • Call the legislative hotline at 1.800.562.6000. Staff will help you leave a message for your legislators.
  • Thank your legislators for supporting ESHB 2261, and helping to build the world-class education system that our children deserve.

We know schools and educators are doing the best job possible in the midst of budget cuts. ESHB 2261 is an acknowledgement that our state is not living up to its paramount duty, and that our teachers deserve the support and resources they need to provide a high quality education for every child. The legislation provides a roadmap for the future to build a stronger and more amply funded education system that will be protected from devastating budget cuts. And, it positions our state to compete for $5 billion in federal funds dedicated to innovation in our public schools.

ESHB 2261 now goes to the governor’s desk, where it is expected to be signed into law. Stay tuned for more information about the bill signing ceremony.

Again, thank you for making a difference!

Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe’s open letter to the education community

We’ve posted Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe’s open letter to the education community in full below.

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April 18, 2009

This has been one of the most difficult and bittersweet weeks in my time in our Legislature. We passed House Bill 2261, to redefine Basic Education. I envisioned the day we would all do this together, but to my deep disappointment that did not happen.

Still, it is time to move forward.

The bill the Senate passed last week shines a bright light on how the state funds our schools with an outdated definition of basic education and gives us the tools to know how we must change our funding to better reflect the growing expectations and challenges our schools face. What will be our class size? Does each school have enough teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors and speech therapists to help students excel? And how many administrators does each school need? These are the questions that this legislation will help us answer.

The bill isn’t perfect, but it is our road map to the world-class educational system envisioned by Washington Learns that every one of us deeply wants. We may not be able to solve all the problems facing our educational system today but we must begin. It is time to take this step.

I have heard that this is the wrong bill and the wrong message at the wrong time. I have heard that it is an insult to our hard-working teachers and educators that come to work every day and are committed to providing every child with the opportunity to learn. I want to be clear – teachers are the single most important part of our educational system. This bill is not a commentary in any way about a failure of our teachers. It is a recognition that our teachers deserve better and a recognition that our state’s definition of basic education has failed to keep pace with the evolving expectations of society and has failed our teachers.

So why do we need this bill now, of all times? Because our class size is 46th in the nation. Because our dropout rate is between 20 and 30 percent, and our teacher compensation is 21st in the nation. That is unacceptable. Our students and our educators deserve much more than an education system that was defined 30 years ago. I know that changing an educational system for almost 1 million students and over 2,000 schools takes time. It cannot happen in one legislative session. However, we must not let an inability to make immediate whole-scale change discourage us from making any progress.

We need to fund what we value and we must ensure that our commitment to education is clearly defined. Only by clearly establishing our Constitutional duties now can we hold the state accountable in the future. There are many demands on our limited state resources – health care, family leave, hospitals and nursing homes, to name only a few. As we come out of this recession, and as the economy grows, our educational system needs to be first in line for restoration of cuts and it must remain at the top of the priority list for future investments. In order to provide the system the capacity to accommodate those investments, planning and phase-in must start now. An expanded definition of basic education obligates our state to fully fund the educational system that our teachers, schools, students and communities need today. With this expanded definition in place the state can start the process of preparing the system for future growth.

We also have a unique opportunity right now to try and access additional federal stimulus dollars to help us with initial, one-time investments. This legislation makes us more competitive to receive part of the more than $4 billion that is available for states in the “Race to the Top” grant. These funds are available to states that are making exceptional progress towards educational reform goals such as rigorous college-and-career ready standards, creation of data systems that help foster continuous improvement and a process for providing intensive support for challenged schools. The legislation passed by the Senate includes provisions and a plan for addressing each of these goals in a meaningful way and will hopefully help the state of Washington access this additional federal money.

For all of these reasons I support the important and difficult step we took this week. This legislation is not the end goal, only the beginning. It reflects months of hard work and negotiation with all education stakeholders. The bill passed by the Senate incorporates language from both the Full Funding Coalition’s proposal and recommendations from the Basic Education Task Force. It strives to plot a way forward, with a realistic implementation strategy based on shared responsibility and expectations for the state, school districts and schools. We must continue to embrace a respectful and steady process forward and I pledge that I will be here every step of the way.

We will do this together. This is about the children.

Yours,

Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe
Chair, Senate Early Learning & K-12 Education Committee

Remarks from education advocates on the passage of ESHB 2261

Education advocates celebrate the passage of the basic education finance reform legislation, ESHB 2261, by a vote of 26 to 23.  Our broad-based coalition includes Washington State PTA, League of Education Voters, State Board of Education, Washington Stand for Children, Washington Roundtable, TechAmerica, Partnership for Learning, Black Education Strategy Roundtable, numerous school boards and superintendents from across the state, and countless others.

Outlined below are quotes from the various coalition members.

Mary Jean Ryan, Chair, State Board of Education

“The State Board of Education strongly commends the Senate for taking this historic action. This is exactly the demonstration of leadership that the children of Washington State deserve. We urge the House to concur with this revised bill. This action will propel us forward. We are now committed and accountable to ensuring all students leave high school, college, or work ready. After too long a wait, Washington’s educational system is once again moving in the right direction.”

Cheryl Jones, Black Education Strategy Roundtable

“This is a great start toward reforming our education system and moving our children into a learning environment that puts their futures as a priority in our state.  As we work together to implement HB 2261, we are encouraged that all children will have access to a quality education and that we will continually work toward closing the achievement gap for minority and low income children.”

Jon Gould, Children’s Alliance and Early Learning Action Alliance

“We applaud the Senate for their historic vote today modernizing the definition of basic education. We thank Senators for including early learning in basic education and recognizing that smart investments in early learning yield positive returns for families and communities across Washington State. In these tough times, this farsighted policy puts early childhood education on a stronger footing for future growth. It’s a great day for children in Washington.”

Chris Korsmo, Executive Director, League of Education Voters

“We’re one step closer to making history for one million public school kids in our state.  These reforms take advantage of the latest evidence-based research to improve academic achievement for children.  Early learning, stronger graduation requirements and a longer school day will better prepare our kids for school and for life.

Including early learning in basic education will mean more children will start school ready to succeed and prevent the achievement gap from occurring.  This is the best investment we can make to improve outcomes for children.”

Shannon Campion, Executive Director, Washington Stand for Children

“This is an historic vote for Washington’s children.  Legislators today demonstrated that even during an economic crisis, we can stay focused on, and make marked progress toward, our vision of a world-class education system for all Washington’s children.”

Jennifer Boutell, Parent, Tacoma Public Schools

“Tacoma desperately needs these reforms.  My hope is that by the time my girls reach high school, the public school system will be able to prepare them for the 21st century economy.”

Terry Byington, Executive Director, TechAmerica

“In future years we’ll look back on this watershed moment and be thankful the Legislature took this stand to support students.”

Laura Bay, President, Washington State PTA

“Today is a great day for the children of Washington.  The Senate’s passage of HB 2261 is an important next step to set the State of Washington on the road toward fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide ample funding for the education of all children.   We are on our way to fulfilling the goal of providing the education system we need to educate our children for success in today’s world.   Many legislators along with a strong coalition of education advocates, including volunteer PTA members from across the state have worked tirelessly in support of this effort.  We applaud the efforts and the courage of those who crafted this legislation and those who have voted for it. 

Having said that, we must all recognize that the fight is not yet won, because the bill now goes back to the House of Representatives for concurrence, and then to the Governor for her approval.  We encourage both the House and the Governor to take swift action because our kids can’t wait.”

African American Achievement Gap Advisory Committee meeting recap

Posted by Heather

The African American Achievement Gap Advisory Committee (created by HB 2722) met at UW-Tacoma yesterday. The main attraction of the meeting was Paul Ruiz of The Education Trust. Mr. Ruiz is one of EdTrust’s experts on the achievement gap, and brought along the latest version of “Education Watch: Washington.” You can read the 2006 version here.

Mr. Ruiz made a number of interesting and thought-provoking points during his presentation to the committee. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Not all kids learn the same way, but all should learn to “respectable levels.”
  • Kids should leave high school with ability to pursue options (college, trades, etc).
  • When looking at NAEP and WASL scores, Washington is telling two different stories about proficiency (Of 4th graders, 77 percent passed the 2007 Reading WASL, compared to 37 percent scoring proficient or higher on NAEP).
  • The faculty of low-income/high-minority schools should mirror the faculty at affluent schools (meaning our teacher workforce should be more equally distributed).
  • We shouldn’t force teachers to teach where they don’t want to go, but the Legislature can set money aside to be used by high-poverty schools as incentives to attract teachers.
  • In order to improve student achievement, the Committee (and State) should set goals and then allow districts and schools to figure out to meet those goals.

After a brief Q-and-A session with Mr. Ruiz, the Committee broke for a working lunch to discuss the efforts of its three workgroups.

Next, we heard from Janell Newman (of OSPI) and Dan Barkley about district and school improvement and accountability. Dr. Newman and Mr. Barkley gave a presentation on Washington schools in improvement steps (as defined under No Child Left Behind) and how the State works with some of those schools. In the data recently released by OSPI, we learned 628 schools (of 2,115) are in an improvement step. This is up from 280 schools last year and 180 schools in 2005. And while OSPI only has the resources to help about 100 schools, they were able to make progress with those schools.

The big challenge here is the State cannot intervene in schools in improvement steps unless it is asked. If all goes well with the State Board of Education, Washington will have a new accountability system that gives the State the ability to intervene when schools are struggling. To learn more about the effort of the SBE, click here.

The Committee ended by reviewing its interim report, due next week. These are typically status reports, and the Committee seems on track to meet its final draft deadline in December.

Katarina’s trip to Vancouver

Boarding a bus at seven in the morning to attend a State Board of Education meeting was not at the top of my summer to-do list. Honestly, I would have never guessed that attending a State Board of Education meeting would ever be on my calendar.

With my eyes a little puffy and my stomach empty, my excitement meter was running on the low side as I headed to the office two hours earlier than normal. As I slowly dragged my body out of my dad’s car, I was instantly greeted with smiles and eager faces ready to show the State Board what we’re all about.

As the bus arrived at the meeting, our show-stopping swag captured the eyes of many in the room. Our message was even stronger than our fierce red shirts – every student should have the opportunity to succeed. We all brought our own stories, each one as powerful and unique as the next.

It was not until this summer that I realized how fortunate I was. Hearing some of the testimonies really helped me see how difficult it may be without the guidance, mentoring and encouragement I received through family, school and Rainier Scholars. Every student is not offered a chance to know success but I believe everyone should be able to know what it feels like to succeed. Through Core 24, every student will have the opportunity to make decisions that will directly affect their future. It offers a solid academic foundation with flexibility to alter courses in order to accommodate post high school graduation plans.

I can now say I have attended a State Board of Education meeting, learned a lot and had fun at the same time. Not only did we show everyone at the meeting how Core 24 would be beneficial to all students, but we also showed them how important student voices really are. We are the future and the time for change is now.

Katarina is our summer intern and also a Rainier Scholar.

Our exciting new addition: Katarina, A Rainier Scholar

Posted by Katarina.

Hi, I’m Katarina. Born here in Seattle, I am an upcoming high school junior. I have attended private school my whole life but I’m very interested and eager to learn more about issues in the public schools. Through Rainier Scholars, I was offered this opportunity to intern at the League of Education Voters office.

I consider Rainier Scholars more than just an academic program but as a family. The positive and continuous encouragement from everyone at RS has led me to truly believe an individual can make a difference in this world. By helping to develop future leaders, Rainier Scholars has helped me and my peers see our potential and have motivated us to step to up and prove that success is for everyone. I have been a part of Rainier Scholars since fifth grade and looking back, I can see the difference they have made in my life.

In two years I will be off to college. At this point, I am still unsure about what school I want to attend or what profession I want to pursue but with the support of school counselors, family and Rainier Scholars, I know I am heading down the right path. As a child I wanted to be everything. Now that I am older I know I can be anything, I just have to believe in my dreams and know my options.

I enjoy playing volleyball and just kicking back in the summer sun with friends. I spend a majority of my time with my two sisters and parents. Art is a large part of my life. I danced ballet for six years and I have recently started to draw and paint more. I played the piano and flute for a little and I listen to music whenever I can. I am also an active member of my church and youth group. Summer is my favorite season and I’m always up for an adventure.

“The time for bold education reform solutions is now.”

League of Education Voters Foundation Proposes Major Reforms to Washington’s Education Finance System

Proposal to be presented to Basic Education Finance Task Force

SEATTLE – The League of Education Voters Foundation (LEVF) will propose major reforms to Washington’s public education system at the Basic Education Finance Task Force meeting Tuesday, June 10.

“The time for bold education reform solutions is now,” said Lisa Macfarlane, co-founder of the League of Education Voters Foundation. “We’ve got a once in a lifetime opportunity to redesign our public schools to work for the next 30 years.”

LEVF’s proposal, A Way Forward, is the culmination of a yearlong effort to develop a new education finance model that prepares all students for college and the workforce.

“We based A Way Forward on one simple premise: we need a public education system that will prepare all students to succeed in today’s competitive economy,” Macfarlane said.

A Way Forward proposes a series of reforms and investments to achieve results and boost student achievement.

“Today’s education finance system is overly complex and too prescriptive,” said Ken Hoover, superintendent of Monroe Public Schools and co-author of A Way Forward. “This proposal would give local school leaders more flexibility to solve problems and then hold them accountable.”

“The state does not provide enough funding for what it costs to educate students today. Communities have stepped up to subsidize public education through local levies.” Macfarlane said. “Our proposal redefines Washington’s commitment to public education.”

LEVF will present A Way Forward to the Basic Education Finance Task Force in Olympia on Tuesday, June 10 at 9 AM in House Hearing Room B, O’Brien Building.

Click here to view the full proposal.

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The League of Education Voters Foundation is a 501(c)3 charitable organization dedicated to engaging ordinary citizens, educators, policymakers and the media in the effort to provide a quality education for all students in Washington State from early learning through post-secondary education.